Russian in where other bartenders fear to tread
Danil Nevsky stirs up a storm in South Africa
Travelling the world, trying local liquor and inventing cocktails: this is what bartender Danil Nevsky calls work. For many the 27-year-old is living the dream, and South Africa is the latest stop on his tour that includes 12 countries in 12 months.
Originally from Russia, Nevsky lived in five countries before the age of 25 and continues to live a nomadic lifestyle with his Vagabond Project, a travel-based production company. The goal is to share local and unique ingredients and drinks with the rest of the world by vlogging and writing for publications.
“The idea is that I use photography and video to capture my experiences when I go places, which I share using my media partners and my network of over a million bartenders, to show them a glimpse of the world and what’s happening in it.”
South Africa is the 10th country he’s visited since he hit the road and is one of his favourites.“It’s in my top three so far because of the culture, the people and the hospitality I’ve been shown. It’s great because of the unique Distell spirits that you have. There’s a lot of production here that I didn’t know about. Normally, not many places have such unique ingredients. South Africa happens to have a lot,” says Nevsky.
“I’ve been impressed with local brandy. I just tried the one that won last year’s world brandy championships: KWV 15 year old. I also really like Wilderer Gin with the Fynbos, and Caperitif made in Cape Town using the cape berry.”In 2017 he joined the company Cocktails For You, which does digital production, marketing and consulting on a global level. The company has existed for five years but since Nevsky has become involved, its social media followers have increased by 800,000, now totalling a million.Previously Nevsky ran the Amsterdam bar Tales and Spirits which in 2015 was rated 30 on the list of the top 50 bars in the world and rose to 18 in 2016.“Most publications for booze are based in New York and London so I go against the grain. I went to Kazakhstan and I milked a horse and learnt all about horse milk and they’ve been using horse milk in cocktails. I’ve now been to South Africa looking at local healers, muti and medical herbs and trying things like sorghum beer and sharing that with the world that doesn’t know anything about it. The bartending world hasn’t been here yet. There are local bartenders that are very good but the foreigners don’t usually travel here because of the limitations financially and /or distance,” he said.
He’s currently travelling with Russian bartender Artem Peruk, who owns a popular illegal tequila bar in St Petersburg.Peruk and Nevsky have visited Mootee bar in Johannesburg, Lucky Shaker in Durban and Cause and Effect in Cape Town. In each city they have been giving seminars, Nevsky on his travels and Peruk on how he set up his bar El Copitas, as well as a guest shift at each bar.The self-taught barman entered the trade when he was 15, when he moved to Scotland.
“I moved away from London where I was studying improv acting and I wanted to make new friends. That’s why I did it. I needed something for all my energy. I wanted a stage and bartending was a stage,” he said.“It was just about the challenges. The idea was: can I be better than this guy or can I be better than that guy? A guy walked into my bar once and said your cocktail menu is shit and I said I’m going to prove you wrong. So I did every single cocktail competition that he did until I beat him. It was 22 different competitions. I'm very stubborn.”
In April Nevsky will settle down for around a year in Barcelona. While bartending and continuing work with his company he hopes to pick up some Spanish and then head to Latin America.